Friday, June 7, 2013

friday fixations: jeni's ice cream

I don't remember where I first saw a Jeni's ice cream recipe or what possessed me to look it up, but whatever it was, thank goodness!

It's a little unorthodox for an ice cream recipe. There're no eggs. No hassle of making a custard at all which is pretty much the main reason I love it so much.

The problem for me with custards is the egg white. What on earth do I do with eight egg whites after I've made one tiny batch of ice cream that will (most likely) last about four days?

Besides the egg part, there're a few other reasons why I make a batch of this ice cream once a week:

First, it's dead simple to throw together. I've revised her exact method to suit my own laziness, but you can do it her way if you want. I just don't feel like you need to unless you like to get all complicated for no reason at all. Making ice cream now takes me as long as it takes for milk to boil plus 4 minutes. I like that.

Second, if you're making just the simple blank canvas base (maybe with some vanilla) you will be able to scoop the ice cream as soon as it comes out of the freezer. Most homemade ice creams make you wait for them to soften on the counter or make you beg a strong man to chip away at it for you. This recipe makes it possible to scoop out the perfect ice cream scoop the second you pull it out of the freezer no matter how long it's been in there.

Third, I read somewhere that you can substitute half and half with whole cream in ice cream to lighten the calories. I tried it, and it works fantastically and it's still super creamy. I really can't tell the difference. Now, not only am I making a super easy ice cream recipe, I'm also making a lighter version of it. I've even gone so far as to use 1% milk, and it's STILL CREAMY! What?! There's some mad science going on here.

I have pictured the roasted strawberry and buttermilk ice cream which is probably one of the best flavours I've yet to make. But the banana (I used shaved white chocolate instead of messing around with making my own white chocolate chips) comes in a close second (we're just finishing a batch). I just put a batch of salted caramel in the fridge to chill before churning (and it smells pretty delish already so I'm kind of excited about it), so the jury's still out on that one.

This is the base recipe (which can easily be altered depending on what flavour you want to make) the way I make it, with my changes in ingredients (which are minimal). 

from Food 52
makes 2 pints (1 L; 4 cups) 

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 ounces light cream cheese
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk (whole, 2% or 1%)
1 1/4 cups half and half (if you can find light, try it!)
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup (if you don't like to use corn syrup, I've also used honey in place of this and it works fine and tastes the same)

Get your stuff together:

The first major thing you have to prepare (or should have prepared at all times) is your ice cream maker bowl. I use the Kitchen Aid ice cream maker, and I just leave the bowl in the freezer all the time so it's always ready to go. If you don't (or have a different machine), make sure it's all ready to do ice cream (but don't freak out, cuz you won't be churning it until at least tomorrow).

Put your cornstarch in a small bowl (like cereal bowl size).

Put your cream cheese in another bowl (the same size is fine) and mix in the salt as best you can. Yes, I'm assuming you're taking it straight out of the fridge because that's what I do. Softening to room temperature is a step I find unnecessary. By the time the milk boils, the cheese is going to be warmed up a little bit (I leave mine sitting on the stove while I do the milk) plus you'll be pouring boiling hot milk into it, so it's going to mix up just fine. The idea of whipping the chunks out and the salt in beforehand has me cringing. So much arm and wrist work for no reason as I have yet to use room temperature cream cheese and have not suffered through cream cheese chunks.

In a large saucepan (boiling milk means you're going to need high sides to account for the expansion), pour in your milk. From that, remove a couple tablespoons and add them into the cornstarch. Whisk the cornstarch up into a slurry.

Back to the pot, add the half and half, sugar, and corn syrup. Turn your heat on high (or just under high as I do. A medium high high). With the same whisk you used for the cream cheese and the cornstarch, whisk the sugar and milk a bit. Now you play the waiting game. I kind of go back and forth whisking a little, doing other tasks, until the milk starts to steam. Once it's fully boiling -- rolling boil -- set a timer for 4 minutes and let it boil away. I haven't had it boil over yet, but sometimes it really wants to (for example, I don't know what was different with the caramel ice cream I just made, but it wanted to boil over so much, I couldn't even turn my head away). You don't want to clean up that mess at any rate, so just stick around and wait it out. It's just 4 minutes.

Once the 4 minutes is up, turn the heat to low and leave the pot on the burner. Mix up your cornstarch again (it settles during this time), then pour it into the hot milk mixture and whisk it in. Then pour a little of the hot milk mixture straight from the pot into the cream cheese. Whisk that up, adding a little more milk at a time until the cream cheese is smooth and melted (as I said). Put the pot back on the burner and pour in the rest of the cream cheese, whisking it in. I like it to sit and heat a little longer just to cook the cornstarch a bit. If you don't, I find it can have a bit of a chalky aftertaste.

Now comes waiting around part number two. Pour the hot milk into a heat proof bowl (like a big measuring cup) and allow to cool to room temperature before putting in the fridge. I usually leave mine in the fridge until the next day, but I've also gotten away with a 5 hour chill. Whatever you have time for.

Once chilled, the mixture will look like some sort of weird curdled pudding. Don't worry! That's normal. Just pour it into your ice cream maker as usual and churn until it's done (I do like the explanation from Food 52 for when ice cream is done from a machine: "The machine isn't freezing the ice cream anymore and it's pulling away from the sides." I used to take it out way too early and now I know). Store in a 1 L (2 pint; 4 cup) freezer safe bowl (or if you like individual cups, those small plastic freezer jam jars work great and fit one serving perfectly).

{unnecessary steps summed up} You do not have to wait for the cream cheese to come to room temperature. You can, but it's kinda dumb. Do not make an ice bath. I have to make ice cubes before making ice cream? That's like making two ice creams and it's just not cool with me. Do not pour boiling hot milk into a ziplock bag. I can't even fathom the number of ways in which this could go wrong. You don't need to let the final ice cream sit for 5-10 minutes before scooping. This only applies if you've added something else to the ice cream like fruit or other variegates and even then, the wait time is more like the time it takes to get bowls, spoons, and crunch up some cookies.

{common complaints} I read a lot of negative reviews for Jeni's ice cream, and, as most reviews go, a lot of them were pretty dumb. Some said it was too involved and had too many pots and bowls to clean up afterwards. Now I haven't made a traditional custard based ice cream for a while, but I seem to remember having to crack and separate a lot of eggs requiring at least two bowls, then having to do the pot routine with milk etc., then having to temper eggs (which you could really screw up requiring you to start over) then having to use my stand mixer for mixing. So... I don't see how this is MORE involved than that. This takes 1 pot, 2 bowls, 1 whisk, 1 bowl to chill it in (and you could really just leave it in the pot if that bothers you so much), and 1 spatula (if you're a freak about getting everything like I am). Another one was the mouth feel and yes, it's creamy ice cream but not in a traditional sense. It's different because IT'S different. Did you read the ingredients? It's different. Don't be all, It doesn't have that rich eggy taste I like! It's not a custard and it's not Haagen Dazs, ok?

{fyi} There're a lot of places where you can find individual Jeni recipes on the internet or you could buy her book, but I've read mostly bad reviews about the book (stemming from poor editing and missing information), so I'm not ready to shell out $20 for it just yet. I found this really handy Pinterest board that has a lot of Jeni ice cream recipes already pinned and we seem to be happy with just eating the base on its own (with cookies or sauce mixed in). Plus I don't really plan on making corn and blackberry ice cream any time soon anyway. Roasting strawberries, mashing bananas, and watching sugar caramelize was about as much work as I've wanted to bother with so far.

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